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INTERNATIONAL STATUS OF SOUTH WEST AFRICA

Advisory Opinion of 11 July 1950


FACTS:
The Territory of South-West Africa was one of the German overseas possessions in respect of
which Germany, by Article 119 of the Treaty of Versailles renounced all her rights and titles in favor of
the Principal Allied and Associated Powers. After the war of 1914-1918 this Territory was placed under
a Mandate conferred upon the Union of South Africa which was to have full power of administration
and legislation over the Territory as an integral portion of the Union. The Union Government was to
exercise an international Sanction of administration on behalf of the League, with the object of
promoting the well-being and development of the inhabitants.
After the second world war, the Union of South Africa, alleging that the Mandate had lapsed,
sought the recognition of the United Nations to the integration of the Territory in the Union. The United
Nations refused their consent to this integration and invited the Union of South Africa to place the
Territory under Trusteeship, according to the provisions of Chapter XII of the Charter.
ISSUES:
A) Does the Union of South Africa continue to have international Obligations under the
Mandate for South West Africa and if so, what are these obligations?
B) Are the provisions of Chapter XII of the Charter applicable to the Territory of South West
Africa?
C) Has the Union of South Africa the competence to modify the international status of the
territory of South West Africa? Where does the competence rest to determine and modify the status of
the Territory?

HELD:
A) YES. The Court ruled that the Union of South Africa continued to have the international
obligations resulting from the Mandate, including the obligation to submit reports and transmit
petitions from the inhabitants of that Territory, the supervisory functions to be exercised by the United
Nations and the reference to the Permanent Court of International Justice to be replaced by reference to
the International Court of Justice, in accordance with Article 7 of the Mandate and Article 37 of the
Statute of the Court.

The international obligations assumed by the Union of South Africa were of two kinds. One
kind was directly related to the administration of the Territory and corresponded to the sacred trust of
civilization referred to in Article 22 of the Covenant; the other related to the machinery for
implementation and was closely linked to the supervision and control of the League. It corresponded to
the "securities for the performance of this trust" referred to in the same Article.
B) The provisions of Chapter XII of the Charter were applicable to the Territory of South-West
Africa in the sense that they provided a means by which the Territory may be brought under the
Trusteeship system; but did not impose on the Union of South Africa a legal obligation to place the
Territory under Trusteeship.
C) The Court decided that the Union had no competence to modify unilaterally the international
status of the Territory. It repeated that the normal way of modifying the international status of the
Territory would be to place it under the Trusteeship System by means of a Trusteeship Agreement, in
accordance with the provisions of Chapter XII of the Charter. Article 7 of the Mandate required the
authorization of the Council of the League for any modifications of its terms.
Moreover, the Union of South Africa itself decided to submit the question of the future
international status of the territory to the "judgment" of the General Assembly as the "competent
international organ". In so doing, the Union recognized the competence of the General Assembly in the
matter. On the basis of these considerations, the Court concluded that competence to determine and
modify the international status of the Territory rested with the Union, acting in agreement with the
United Nations.